Kat Zhang is the author of the YA novel What’s Left of Me, which features a girl with two souls, available September 18th 2012.
Steph and I sit in the waiting room of the busy doctor’s office tapping our foot against the chair leg.
“This is not my fault-“
“This is all your fault,” Steph hisses.
I fold our arms and kick our leg a little harder in frustration. “How was I supposed to know the Delgradi Mirror did… did this?”
Steph unfolds our arms and refolds them. Uncrosses our legs and recrosses them. “Why did you have to go chasing the Doctor for an interview to start off with? I told you to stick to authors!”
A woman comes into the waiting room and sits beside us. It’s not unusual since it’s a crowded waiting room and all that. Nobody looks at the one amalgamated body speaking with two different voices and arguing with itself. It’s old news in this universe.
“We spend enough time in each other’s brain without being in the same body too!” Steph fumes.
“Hey, hey! Shut up!” I hiss.
“You can’t tell me what to do, Kennedy! I’m not the recessive soul. I’m not just going to let you party with our body like it’s 1999. So you can’t tell me to shut-“
“No, really, Steph. Shut up! That’s Kat Zhang sitting next to us!”
Steph turns our head and stares at Zhang, dropping our jaw in astonishment. “No…”
“Yes!” I hiss. “What do you think? Surprise interview?”
“No- I mean, yes!” Steph replies. “But we have to be really careful about how we approach her. Don’t want to be rude and all.”
I nod our head. “You’re absolutely right, Steph. Hey! Hey! Excuse me! Kat Zhang? Hey! Can we do an interview?”
Zhang’s head shoots up from her magazine and she looks around quizzically for a moment before spotting us and looking very confused.
“Oh god, Kat…” Steph mutters.
“Kat Zhang? Author of What’s Left of Me? Yeah, you,” I say when she’s still looking completely baffled. “It’s Kat and Steph from Cuddlebuggery Book Blog. Can we interview you?”
Zhang looks us over more closely before laughing at us and nodding yes. We scoot closer and Steph uses our arms to whip out the notepad and pen we used for our failed interview with the twelfth Doctor.
“Thanks for inviting me to interview!” Zhang says, once we’re settled.
“Well, it’s you,” Steph replies with a wave of her hand. How could we not?”
“Yeah, yeah, less chatting, more interviewing! We’re two souls, one body, long story, but the doctor will be calling us soon.”
Zhang nods and, based on her experience with that sort of thing, I guess it’s not so weird for her.
“First,” Steph begins, “I want to say that What’s Left of Me has one of the most stunning covers I’ve seen this year. What were your thoughts when you first saw it?”
Zhang’s face breaks out into a lovely smile. “I love the cover, too. I was on a road trip with some writer friends when my editor called to say a cover mock-up was on its way to my inbox. It was actually pretty funny since one of my friends had just been talking about how I should be getting a cover soon. Thirty anxious minutes later, I got the email, and I couldn’t. stop. staring at it!”
At my frown she adds, “Don’t worry, I wasn’t the one driving. I love how different it is from many other YA covers, and I didn’t even see the optical illusion until a little later. There was much excited shouting.”
The Doctor calls another person into their office and the line is getting smaller. I rush on. “What’s Left of Me tells the story of two souls that share the same body, Eva, the recessive soul and Addie, dominate. They live in a world where everyone is born with two souls, but one is expected to simply fade away. How did you come up with the idea of this premise?”
Zhang thinks for a second before replying. “I don’t really have a super interesting story to tell about how I came up with the idea for WHAT’S LEFT OF ME.”
We both give her an incredulous stare with the same face. “I wish I did! Really, though, I just started wondering one day–everyone has a bit of an internal monologue going at times; what if that little voice in the back of your head was a real person? What would it be like to live trapped in your own body?”
“Yeah,” I mutter dryly. “I wonder what that would be like.”
“Shut it, Kennedy!” Steph snaps.
Zhang laughs. “That was how the idea for Eva began, and the rest of the story grew around her. I do credit all those voice-overs in movies, standing in for that “inner monologue”, as sparking my imagination, though!”
“Were there any messages you wished to send to readers through your novel?” I ask.
Zhang shakes her head. “I never really like to talk too much about messages in my own work. I love analyzing them in other people’s work, and I definitely think about them while writing. Though mostly not until later drafts…I’m a big believer in “themes” developing much as characters and plots do. But I’ve always thought that the message, or lack of message, a reader takes away from a work ought to be up to the reader. Sometimes two different readers will see two very different messages, and that’s part of the brilliance and fun of it!”
“You just love throwing in those ‘two things in one container’ references, don’t you!” I mutter, crossing my arms.
Steph rolls our eyes. “Stop being so grumpy, woman! Sorry, Zhang. She’s always like this when she’s sober. Throughout most of the book it’s Addie who has control of their body, yet the story is told from Eva’s point of view. Did you always plan it that way?”
“Yes,” Zhang replies, her lips twitching in amusement. “Like I said earlier, the whole idea for WHAT’S LEFT OF ME came from wondering what life would be like for the recessive soul, so I was always firmly in Eva’s head.”
“I can imagine what that’s like,” Steph replies. “Kat, you must really feel for Eva, huh?”
“You think I won’t beat you up just because we’re in the same body… but I will! Anyway, Zhang, Eva and Addie’s relationship is so unique. They struggle to meet both of their needs and wants without depriving the other, yet they still attempt to keep the facade of only one soul. Did you find their characters difficult to write?”
“Their personalities definitely developed over the course of the drafts, but that development was pretty natural and painless. Addie was a bit trickier to pin down at first. Writing in Eva’s POV, I really only got a sense of her through Eva’s perspective, at first, and I actually wrote a few scenes in Addie’s POV to get a better sense of her personality and voice,” Zhang replied as she looked around the waiting room.
“If you’re looking for Archer, we lost him. But we’ll get him back once we’re back in our own bodies.”
“I’m sure he can handle a few Daleks until then,” Steph adds. Zhang pales and looks as though she’s about to protest when Steph charges on. “In the beginning we see Eva as mainly the barely there, conscious-like character. She is defined only by who Addie chooses to be. But later, she grows so much it feels like she’s a completely different person. Was her growth organic or planned?”
“It was pretty organic in that I didn’t really sit down and think “Okay, how is Eva going to change over the course of this story?” But it was planned, too, because I did have to consider how she would react to each event in the plot. Pretty big things happen to Eva over the course of the story! It would be strange if she remained the same all the way through,” Zhang replies with a smile.
Another person goes into the doctor’s room and I know we have to hurry, or we’ll run out of time.
My phone beeps and Steph and I both reach to grab for it. “Hello?” we say.
“Hey,” Archer says. “Are you guys coming to get me any time soon? Thing are getting fun!”
“We’re just at the doctor’s office and interviewing Kat Zhang. Just hold on a little more,” Steph replies as she furiously jots down notes.
“Oh, really? Ask her what the writing process was like and then, EXTERMINATE THIS YOU FLOATING PIECE OF CRAP, GET ME OUT OF HERE!” Archer hisses.
“Sure thing, anything else?” I ask.
Archer pauses to think. “Nice cold beer maybe? Have I mentioned that I am surrounded by extremely pissed off Daleks and that I am fresh out of Time Lords?”
“Gotta go,” Steph answers. “We’ll see you soon!”
“Hey! Wait-“ we cancel the call and turn our head back to Zhang who is looking increasingly alarmed.
“So… “What was your writing process like while writing What’s Left of Me?”
Zhang shakes her head in bemusement but answers anyway. “I started writing WHAT’S LEFT OF ME as a high school senior, and my first readers were two of my school friends who literally read my pages as I wrote them. I’d write ten pages one night, print ten pages the next morning, and bring them to school for them to read.” She leans forward to whisper, “Staying a little bit ahead of them at all times!” before continuing. “Unfortunately, I didn’t finish the first draft before school ended, so they never got to see how the story ended. With the craziness of that summer, I spent part of it in China, and then the beginning of college, I didn’t finish that first draft until spring of my freshman year. There was a lot of scribbling in notebooks before classes and such!
My writing process is getting more and more structured now (deadlines will do that to a girl!), but the writing-just-a-bit-ahead-of-your-readers approach was fun while it lasted!”
“Wow. That’s a great answer,” I reply.
“Ignore her, she’s just stalling because she does have another question to ask,” Steph adds.
“Do you?” I hiss. It must look weird watching us. Like we’ve gone insane. Maybe we have.
“I know! Do you have anything in common with Addie and Eva? Do you relate to one more than the other? Like you would relate to me more than Steph because Steph is a pain in the ass?
Zhang answers before Steph can object. “Addie and Eva are both people very much shaped by their lives and experiences, which were very different from mine! That being said, I do have things in common with both, but I don’t think I really relate to one more than the other. Writ
Her answer makes Steph and I glare with suspicion. That and the fact that this is a specialist surgery for Hybrid patients.ers will always relate to their characters to some degree, I think, but part of the fun of writing is able to “live” a life different than your own, be a person who you aren’t.”
“Tell us, are you secretly a hybrid? We promise not tell a soul,” Steph asks with a wink.
Kat Zhang gives us shifty eyes. Just as I’m about to press the issue, the doctor calls out our name.
“Saved by the bell this time, Zhang,” I mutter as Steph pushes us to our feet. She winks and gives us a little wave.
“Never mind,” Steph consoles me. “We have to get back into two bodies and then go save Archer from the Daleks.
“Again!” I mutter. “Oh and pick up some beers.
“Right. Mustn’t forget the beer,” Steph replies with a laugh. For a second, I think it wouldn’t be so bad sharing a body with Steph for the rest of our life. I know she suddenly feels the same way. Then we come to our senses and race into the doctor’s office.
We want to give a huge thank you to Kat Zhang for the interview. Your *secret* is safe with us!
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://cuddlebuggery.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Kat-Zhang.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Kat Zhang is an avid traveler, and after a childhood spent living in one book after another, she now builds stories for other people to visit. An English major at Vanderbilt University, she spends her free time performing Spoken Word poetry, raiding local bookstores, and plotting where to travel next. What’s Left of Me–about a girl with two souls–is her first novel and will be released by HarperCollins on 9/18/2012. She is represented by Emmanuelle Morgen of Stonesong.
Don’t forget to check out What’s Left of Me out September 18th 2012!
Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t…
For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable–hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet…for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.